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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

VIII
Handel and Music

Handel and Beethoven

As a boy, from 12 years old or so, I always worshipped
Handel. Beethoven was a terra incognita to me till I went
up to Cambridge; I knew and liked a few of his waltzes
but did not so much as know that he had written any sonatas
or symphonies. At Cambridge Sykes tried to teach me
Beethoven but I disliked his music and would go away as
soon as Sykes began with any of his sonatas. After a long
while I began to like some of the slow movements and then
some entire sonatas, several of which I could play once
fairly well without notes. I used also to play Bach and
Mendelssohn's Songs without Words and thought them lovely,
but I always liked Handel best. Little by little, however,
I was talked over into placing Bach and Beethoven on a
par as the greatest and I said I did not kno\v which was the
best man. I cannot tell now whether I really liked Beethoven
or found myself carried away by the strength of the Beethoven
current which surrounded me; at any rate I spent a great
deal of time on him, for some ten or a dozen years.

One night, when I was about 30,1 was at an evening party
at Mrs. Longden's and met an old West End clergyman of
the name of Smalley (Rector, I think, of Bayswater). I
said I did not know which was greatest Handel, Bach or
Beethoven.

He said : " I am surprised at that; I should have thought
you would have known."

" Which," said I, " is the greatest ? "

" Handel."

I knew he was right and have never wavered since. I

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